Retail

Retail’s “Next Big Thing” Is Aimed At Women

Generally speaking, if you’re trying to get a consumer’s attention, offering them access to “The Next Big Thing” is a pretty good way to do it. As Nancy Berger, VP/Publisher at Marie Claire USA, told Karen Webster in a recent conversation, it’s one of those topics that inherently catches everyone’s interest.

“If I’m going through my inbox and I see an email from someone I know and trust with ‘The Next Big Thing’ in the subject line – it’s what I’m opening first,” she noted.

“We all want to know what ‘it’ is it in our technology, our clothes and our personal lives.”

But despite the general interest in the area, the conversations around innovation and what’s next in technology isn’t always directed at women, or particularly tailored to their interests. A trip around the floor at the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, she noted, and one quickly realizes they are in a rather “testosterone-filled environment.”

That hole in the conversation presented an opportunity for a publisher like Marie Claire, which is largely focused around fashion and beauty discovery for female consumers, to fill.

Berger’s ambition is to for Marie Claire to be the brand that curates an experience for women that is about discovering the “Next Big Thing” at the intersection at fashion, beauty, content and technology as women go about their day – making it, as Berger told Webster, experiential and real.

And physical.

Marie Claire opened its Next Big Thing pop-up concept shop in Manhattan’s SoHo district on September 23. Operating in concert with Mastercard and Neiman Marcus, the store will offer a range of items segmented into three categories relating to the magazine’s three core areas: @work, @play and @peak. Consumers can interact with a selection of curated goods using technology that the publisher believes will power the next generation of the omnichannel retail experience.

An experience, Berger told Webster, the Marie Claire consumer has been waiting desperately for – even if they don’t know it yet.

The Marie Claire Customer

Some people shop seasonally, but the Marie Claire customer is what Berger jokingly referred to as “a shopper extraordinaire.”

“Our audience skews overwhelmingly educated, professional and with disposable income in urban areas,” Berger said.

“These are not folks who only shop seasonally – they tend to shop opportunistically.”

It’s a demographic that, Berger said, is always shopping – representing a lucrative opportunity for retailers who want people to pull out their credit cards to buy things they want, but don’t necessarily need.

But that doesn’t mean those rather enthusiastic shoppers couldn’t or shouldn’t be given a better customer experience, Berger said – in fact, the data clearly indicates they are looking for one in a variety of ways. Berger noted that one key retail area in need of improvement is in servicing customers: Shoppers aren’t just looking for things to buy – they also want to know how to put them together and create things that are on trend, without looking like they are trying too hard to be trendy.

The Next Big Thing shop, she noted, builds on that desire for expert guidance, and works it into the store itself.

The store, Berger said, is all about imagining the daily life of this female professional: her work life, her playtime and her life when she is “at peak” and working out. Since Marie Claire is working with Neiman Marcus as its retail partner, they are styling outfits that fit into those three segments. In the store itself, Neiman Marcus stylists can schedule time to meet with customers to customize selections to their liking.

A 360-Degree Experience Of New

From the goods on the shelves to the art on the wall, Berger told Webster the entire experience is designed to immerse the visitor in the “Next Big Thing” conversation and the type of varied discovery for which Marie Claire is known. For instance, Berger said that the artwork in the store was all done by female photographers, all inspired by technology and all for sale.

The store also features educational programming and special sneak peaks from big brands (the world got its first look at the next evolution in Spanx at the Marie Claire concept shop), and gives consumers a chance to test-drive new retail technology using smart mirrors outfitted with payment technology from Mastercard. Placed within the store’s dressing rooms, the mirrors can suggest accessories to complete outfits and accept payment for those outfits.

“Retailers who are going to be successful moving forward are going to have to build in more of an experience to keep their customers interested and coming back,” said Berger.

“We are looking to really show what retailers can do when they focus on real engagement and making their store a destination.”

The Next Big Thing concept shop is a limited engagement, only available until Oct. 12.

But, Berger noted, this is just the beginning of the Next Big Thing, as there are a variety of ways it can be extended – perhaps as a traveling series of pop-up shops to other cities (Boston, please) or as a store-within-a-store concept. The paths are many, Berger noted, but the aim remains the same: to help women discover that “Next Big Thing” at the intersection of technology, fashion trends and commerce – and to motivate retailers and brands to meet them there, too.

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